Town of Vail: Living Labs

Town of Vail with Hal Rabbino

The project with the Town of Vail covered the first two weeks of December 1998, exploring how this very successful global-destination ski resort could meet the needs of its visitors and its residents simultaneously.  Using the emerging Strategic Clarity process, we engaged the leadership of the Town of Vail in a strategic systems process.

Initial Project Description

In this 13-minute exploration, Hal provides an overview of this strategic process, initial insights, key experiences or shifts in the participants, and documented impacts.

Video (or audio-only version)

ISC Live Lab Co-investment and Return on Co-investment

Context.  In 1998, we were refining our understanding of strategic systems mapping and developing the synthetic analysis method for identifying systemic leverage points.

Co-investment.  In this fieldwork in the mountains of Colorado, we co-invested our intellectual property of strategic systems thinking and system dynamics simulation.

Return on Co-investment.  The return on this co-investment was confirming the efficiency of our strategic systems process for unifying a diverse group of stakeholders around a common goal, a complex set of strategic dynamics, and the identification of a set of agreed-upon leverage points.

Further References

Global Colors Company — Mexico and Central America Operations: Living Labs

Global Colors Company with Luz Maria Puente Kawashima

The Global Colors Company project started in 2002 and took place within the food colors division of the Mexico and Central America operations of a global colors company. The project used strategic systems mapping to engage functional areas across the company to see themselves as a whole.

Initial Project Description

In this 16-minute exploration, Luz Maria provides an overview of the project, key insights and shifts in the participants.

Video (or audio-only version)

ISC Live Lab Co-investment and Return on Co-investment

Context.  In 2002, we had just published the book Managing from Clarity. We had refined our understanding of strategic systems mapping, and we were testing it in different organizational settings.

Co-investment.  In this fieldwork, we co-invested our intellectual property of strategic systems thinking.

Return on Co-investment.  The return on this co-investment was refining our development of processes for using the Strategic Clarity to bring diverse functions across a supply chain into a unified whole at the business level.

Kraft Mexico: Living Labs

Kraft Mexico with Conrado Garcia Madrid

The Kraft Mexico project in 2003 brought together the Kraft Mexico sales team with its top distributors to understand the underlying dynamics of what worked and did not work in the sales system for them.  Combining system dynamics simulation and strategic clarity analysis, this project culminated in a 1.5-day event with 60 participants from Kraft and their lead distributors.

Initial Project Description

In this 21-minute exploration, Conrado provides an overview of this strategic process, initial insights, key experiences or shifts in the participants, and innovations in working with other consulting processes and in bringing together a large group of stakeholders.

Video (or audio-only version)

ISC Live Lab Co-investment and Return on Co-investment

Context.  In 2003, we were integrating systemic strategy and impact measurement.

Co-investment.  In this fieldwork with Kraft, we co-invested our intellectual property of strategic systems thinking and system dynamics simulation.

Return on Co-investment.  The return on this co-investment was refining our understanding of the process in integrating our strategic systems process with formal system dynamics simulation, and in the development of strategic measurement tools based on the strategic systems simulation.

Further References

Delta-R Oilfield Integration Services: Living Labs

Delta-R with Hal Rabbino

The Delta-R project, 2000-2001, integrated the strategic systems understanding into an online platform for an integrated understanding of the oilfield in hydrocarbon asset valuation.  The project started by developing the software, with the Delta-R software team, that integrated the system dynamics simulation capacity with the strategic systems framework to integrate different elements of the oilfield in one platform, which was then applied with Hal in two settings in Africa and one in Europe.

Initial Project Description

In this 8-minute exploration, Hal provides an overview of this strategic process, its rollout in the field, initial insights, key experiences, and shifts in the participants.

Video (or audio-only version)

ISC Live Lab Co-investment and Return on Co-investment

Context.  In 2001, we had just published the book Managing from Clarity. We had refined our understanding of strategic systems mapping, and we were actively developing the synthetic analysis method for identifying systemic leverage points.

Co-investment.  In this set of projects with Delta-R, we co-invested our intellectual property of strategic systems thinking and system dynamics simulation, and our financial capital in building a strategic systems simulation platform with Delta-R.

Return on Co-investment.  The return on this co-investment was learning how to integrate strategic systems thinking into a simulator environment of a specific complex environment.

Comision Estatal de Aguas de Queretaro (water systems in Mexico): Living Labs

Comision Estatal de Aguas de Queretaro with Conrado Garcia Madrid

The Comision Estatal de Aguas de Queretaro project in 2006, with follow up in 2016, worked with the governmental agency leaders and some of their stakeholders to shift their strategy.  This project involved coordination with a simultaneous reengineering project, and culminated in a table of direct action plans for each area within the commission, using a results-based management approach to measurement and action planning.

Initial Project Description
In this 17-minute exploration, Conrado provides an overview of this strategic process, initial insights, key experiences or shifts in the participants, and innovations in working with other a reengineering processes and in grounding the strategic systems insights into action plans for a results-based management approach.

Video (or audio-only version)

ISC Live Lab Co-investment and Return on Co-investment

Context.  In 2006, we had founded the Institute for Strategic Clarity three years earlier, developing our understanding of the sustained use of strategic systems frameworks in long-term relationships.

Co-investment.  In this 10-year relationship with the water authority of Leon (Mexico), we  co-invested our intellectual property of strategic systems thinking and system dynamics simulation, and our social capital of the many other leaders in Mexico working with our approach.

Return on Co-investment.  The return on this co-investment came in the refinement of our understanding of the utility of strategic systems tools over multiple iterations of the strategic process and the engagement of increasing circles of community leadership as the long-term, strategic systems initiative evolved.

Further References

Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell: Living Labs

Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell with Luz Maria Puente KawashimaHal Rabbino, and Marshall Clemens

The Boys & Girls Club of Greater Lowell project in 2002 used strategic systems mapping and idiagrams to engage the leadership of a very impactful nonprofit, serving over 200 kids in Lowell, MA (USA), and on the brink of financial collapse, in a strategic renewal.  This required quick wins towards long-term health.  The process brought the board and faculty together to revision the board, its role, and the work of the faculty with the board to invigorate fundraising and community building.  From then with 1 month of funding until the doors were shut to now with new buildings and an endowment to increase its financial resilience, the Club came together to imagine and materialize a healthier future, doubling the population of boys and girls served.

Initial Project Description

In this 21-minute exploration, Luz Maria provides an overview of the project, the 1-year process with a follow up 2 years later, key insights, key experiences or shifts in the participants, and potential and documented impacts.

Video version

ISC Live Lab Co-investment and Return on Co-investment

Context.  In 2002, we had just published the book Managing from Clarity. We had refined our understanding of strategic systems mapping, and we were actively developing the synthetic analysis method for identifying systemic leverage points, and how it could be used with community-based strategic processes.

Co-investment.  In this multi-year relationship with the Boys & Girls Club, we co-invested our intellectual property of strategic systems thinking and community-engagement processes.

Return on Co-investment.  The return on this co-investment was refining our processes and tools for engaging multi-lingual communities in taking up a long-term systemic strategy for the development of their own community.

Further References

Grupo Bal — Corporate: Living Labs

Grupo Bal with Hal Rabbino

The Grupo Bal project, in 1999, explored the strategic systems understanding of a corporate governance setting, understanding the interplay of multiple businesses and the role of the corporate function.

Initial Project Description

In this 10-minute exploration, Hal provides an overview of this strategic process, initial insights, key experiences, and shifts in the participants.

Video (or audio-only version)

ISC Live Lab Co-investment and Return on Co-investment

Context.  In 1999,  we were refining our strategic mapping of systems, and developing the synthetic analysis method for identifying systemic leverage points.

Co-investment.  In this fieldwork, we co-invested our intellectual property of the strategic systems thinking of complex systems, within the strategic framing of the corporate environment.

Return on Co-investment.  The intellectual return on our co-investment came in the exploration of strategic systems thinking when applied to a corporate environment, exploring the value generated and strategic leverage points for the corporate group managing a portfolio of companies.  A key insight gained was in formulating the valuation of a corporate group of companies as a combination of the current value and the risk of the future value, a risk that is partly controlled by the way that the corporate group works with the portfolio of companies.  This valuation of an underlying system of enabling and value-driving resources works nicely with the systemic view of the strategic elements of the corporate group.

We were invited with leadership from Grupo Bal to present the findings of this work at a conference on strategic measurement at Harvard, bringing a return on our social capital co-invested, developing a relationship with the creators of the Balanced Scorecard, which would play out in future research.

Further References

Cancer Free Economy Network: Living Labs

Cancer Free Economy Network with Conrado Garcia Madrid

The Cancer Free Economy Network project in 2015-2016 worked with a large, multi-stakeholder process to rid the US economy of carcinogenic toxins.  The project joined an on-going strategic systems process that already had a systems map and leverage points identified.  The project started by taking a team of 3 people from the project through the Strategic Clarity 2.0 analysis, developing their capacity to understand and do the analysis, with the completed analysis as the deliverable.   The project then worked with the leverage point teams to identify specific leverage-point strategies and to integrate those strategies into one unified strategy.

Initial Project Description
In this 21-minute exploration, Conrado provides an overview of this strategic process, initial insights, key experiences or shifts in the participants, and innovations in engaging with a strategic systems project that already had a systems map and leverage points identified, as well as innovations in the use of graphic templates to facilitate the leverage-point teams’ work with the strategic systems process.

Video (or audio-only version)

ISC Live Lab Co-investment and Return on Co-investment

Context.  In 2015, we had just published the book Ecosynomics. We were refining our understanding of the strategic systems processes underlying collaboration and networks.

Co-investment.  In this project with the Garfield Foundation, we co-invested our intellectual property of the Strategic Clarity methodology, our understanding of how to develop leverage-point strategies, and how to unite them in one overall strategy, our social capital in how to develop the capacity of our co-investors in actually doing the strategic synthetic analysis for leverage points.

Return on Co-investment.  The return on this co-investment came in the forms of the intellectual capital of (1) developing the capacity of co-investors to work with and support the technical assessment of the leverage points, (2) exploring new ways of graphically engaging teams in developing leverage-point strategies, and (3) deepening our experience in working with a network to design a unified leverage-point strategy.

Further References

Say YES! to ALL Children Flourishing in Public K-12 Education — OOMA Is

All children can flourish in public K-12 education. While it is not a reality yet, the OOMA network in Massachusetts is taking its first steps in a collaborative, systems approach to saying Yes! to all children. 100%. Not just some of the children, in some zip codes, some of the time. Everyone everywhere everyday.

In the June 2021 issue of the Eton Journal for Innovation and Research in Education, editors Jonathan Beale and Iro Konstantinou share a piece Wayne Ysaguirre, Hardin L.K. Coleman, and I wrote, “A Bold Vision to Advance Racial Equity and Prepare Underserved Youth to Thrive in Work and Life.”

The article describes the collaborative, strategic-systems approach taken by our colleagues at Open Opportunity MassachusettsInstitute for Strategic Clarity, Social Impact Exchange, and the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. Wayne, Hardin, and I describe our article in this brief 6-minute video.

Are We A System Or A Network? A Hat Tip to Russell Ackoff, Again

Almost everything these days is a network (5B Google hits). Or a system (10B Google hits). Are systems and networks the same thing? Are they very different?

A very brief side trip into definitions and etymology might answer this for us, definitively. Network is defined by OED as “a group or system of interconnected people or things.” Network comes from the Proto-Germanic *natjo, perhaps originally “something knotted,” from PIE root *ned– “to bind, tie” and *werka– “work,” from PIE *werg– “to do.” So, from the Proto-Germanic for bound-together work or interconnected people or things. System is defined by OED as “a set of things working together as parts of a mechanism or an interconnecting network; a complex whole.”  System comes from the Greek systema “organized whole, a whole compounded of parts,” from syn– “together,” from PIE root *sta– “to stand, make or be firm.” So, from the Greek for interconnected parts. OED seems to partially define a network as a system and a network as a system. So, the definitions and etymology do not seem to clarify much.

Then, there is Russell Ackoff. For me it is always worth it to go back to Russell Ackoff, especially for clarity around seemingly complex themes. In his 2010 book Differences That Make a Difference: An Annotated Glossary of Distinctions Important in Management, Ackoff distinguishes networks from systems, clarifying their distinct power and purpose.

A system is a whole that is defined by its function in a larger system of which it is a part. (An automobile, for example, is defined for its role in the transportation system: a university by its role in the educational system.) It has at least two essential parts–parts without which it could not perform its defining function. For example, an automobile cannot function without a motor, fuel, pump, or battery. A person cannot function without a brain, lungs, and a heart. The essential parts have five essential characteristics: (1) Each can affect the behavior or properties of the whole; (2) The way an essential part affects the whole depends on what at least one other part is doing. The effects of the parts are interdependent; (3) Every two essential parts are connected, directly or indirectly; (4) Subsets of essential parts (subsystems) also can affect the properties or behavior of the whole, and the way they affect the whole depends on at least one other subsystem; (5) There is a direct or indirect connection between every pair of subsystems. It follows that a system is a whole that cannot be divided into independent parts. Its properties and behavior derive from the interactions of its parts, not their actions considered separately.

A network is a whole whose function is to enable communication between its parts. In a well-designed network, there is a connection between every possible pair of parts. But in a network, unlike a system, there are no essential parts. If any part is removed, there are alternative ways to connect the parts affected.

The parts of a system many form a network, but not every network is a system. The so-called “telephone system” is not a system but a network. It has no essential parts. However, a telephone company is a system. If a collection of parts is neither a system nor a network, it is an aggregation, like a crowd or inventory of parts. For example, consider the wired telephone network. If the connection between Philadelphia and New York is broken, one can still reach New York from Philadelphia by going through any number of cities: for example, Trenton, New Brunswick, and Newark. But, if an essential part of a system–for example, the motor from an automobile–is broken the automobile cannot perform its function.

Ackoff, R. L. (2010). Differences That Make a Difference: An Annotated Glossary of Distinctions Important in Management. Devon, UK, Triarchy Press, pp. 119-120.

Thank you, once again, Russell Ackoff for this clarity. A system is a set of interrelated parts, where the contribution of each is essential to the purpose and behavior of the whole. A network is a set of interrelated parts, providing robust communication among its parts. An aggregation is a pile of parts. Clear. So, are you a system, a network, or an aggregation?